By Erika Owen
Updated: January 21, 2017
Courtesy of American Airlines

Last St. Patrick's Day, more than 1,194 lucky travelers found themselves with the option to book a free (or close to free) flight to Beijing or Shanghai on American Airlines. The offer was the result of a computer glitch and only last about five hours—plenty of time for word to fly across social media channels. Of the group who noticed the glitch, 589 were able to book immediately and the other 605 were placed on a 24-hour hold.

Initially, the airline decided to honor the group who were able to solidify their fare and cancelled the remaining holds. The reasoning: since the purchases were most likely prompted by social media posts, the reservations were made in "bad faith, and not on the honest belief that a good deal was available." The DOT requires that airlines honor fares that are placed on hold, and eventually American Airlines gave in. They only added one catch to the unintended deal: those lucky China-bound travelers must make their trip in the next year. After all, who doesn't love an impromptu vacation?

Erika Owen is the Audience Engagement Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @erikaraeowen.